Interview with Lisa Benson on Chronic Migraine and New Treatments
Lisa Benson is an artist, writer, and community volunteer. She sculpts using clay and plaster and also works doing sculpture restoration. She had undiagnosed migraines since she was a child, and finally received the diagnosis in late 2011 when she started to suffer from chronic migraines.
Do you have chronic migraine?
What does feeling better mean for you?
Feeling better means that precious resources in my life have returned to me—time, attention, and energy. When I have a migraine, I lose these resources. Sometimes I have to choose to rest at the sacrifice of earning money or worse, time with the people I love.
A trade off for self-care
Why would I take a three-hour nap if I could instead go to the park with my daughter? Or go to work and be productive? But migraine often demands my energy be replenished in a way that feels excessive. Since I have experienced a reduction in migraine attacks since taking Emgality, I am slowly rebuilding my energy stores, finding more time to be with those I love, and can feel more fully present in the moment.
What has your experience been with Botox and CGRP?
I have not taken Botox and the CGRP medicines at the same time, but I have taken both before. My experience with Emgality is so far more positive than Botox in a few ways and more negative in just one way. I did have a reduction in migraine frequency and severity when receiving Botox injections, and currently also have had some success with my first two months on the CGRP medicine Emgality.
Side effects and injections
However, I had more side effects with the Botox. I had a significant amount of pain and soreness a few days after the injections, I had to ice and take anti-inflammatory medicines. I also couldn’t move the muscles in my forehead. Also, Botox was painful to receive and I had to go to the doctor’s office every three months. I can inject the Emgality at home and it’s only a single injection and doesn’t hurt much. I’m only on my second month, so it might be premature to compare side effects, but so far so good.
The only part that I’m finding more difficult is insurance approval. My doctor’s office put through two prior authorizations and one appeal, and my insurance didn’t approve the Emgality. I was approved for Botox pretty quickly when I received it a few years ago. Thankfully I’ve been able to use the Emgality savings card, so at the moment the cost is free. Hopefully, by the time the savings card runs out, more insurance companies will be approving the medicine. Ultimately, both medicines can be helpful, and it’s important for an individual to figure out which one works best for them.
How do you keep realistic expectations (and hope alive)?
When I first started taking Emgality I decided to enter the experience with zero expectations. I have heard some great success stories and other stories of failure with the CGRP meds. I also know that there are several choices for CGRP meds and I don’t necessarily know which one will help me, so I just needed to start trying.
Managing expectations moving forward
Well, the zero expectations motto didn’t last long! Things were wildly successful for the first month, I literally had zero migraines. My expectations surged beyond realistic, and I thought that maybe I would never have another migraine attack again. Boy was I wrong! The day my second dose was due a migraine started and it lasted for four days. I’ve had two more migraines this second month on the medicine, but that is still much better than before. My job at the moment is to let go of expectations and just keep collecting data so that I can tell my doctor how I am doing. Still, I feel hopeful.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?